By Anna Gatlin, Senior Director, State Engagement and Relations, USA Funds
As Memorial Day approaches, our nation will pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
America’s armed services, veterans and their families are some of our country’s greatest resources. To ensure that veterans have a path to high-demand careers following their military service, USA Funds® has established partnerships with states that are dedicated to providing veterans with innovative, affordable postsecondary education.
The experiences and talents that veterans bring to their education are worthy of acknowledgement and translation to classroom credit, to help them transition into civilian life as smoothly as possible. Imagine completing intensive military training and executing on your mission, only to be told that you must start your civilian education at square one.
That frustration is far too familiar for U.S. veterans.
Prior Learning Assessments
To streamline and shorten veterans’ paths to postsecondary education completion, USA Funds supports the creation and expansion of Prior Learning Assessments. Prior Learning Assessment awards credit and certifications for prior experience and training.
Research shows that graduation rates are two-and-a-half times higher for students who had Prior Learning Assessment credits than for those who did not. In addition, adult students who earned 15 or more credits to apply to their degrees through Prior Learning Assessment saved between $1,600 and $6,000 on tuition costs.
USA Funds is working with over a dozen states as they create innovative pathways to credentials and degrees for veterans. This work helps ensure that veterans have the ability to translate their service into academic success and a purposeful career beyond the military.
USA Funds is partnering with the state of Montana, the state with the second largest population of veterans per capita, to offer the following services:
- Support “Returning to Learning” workshops for veterans.
- Provide training for faculty, academic advisers and front-line staff to guide veterans’ needs and create PLA opportunities.
- Develop enhanced online resources to support veterans in their studies.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has made a firm commitment to providing these resources to veterans in his state, and we are excited about the progress the state is making in creating additional support and opportunities for Montana veterans. Montana institutions have been working to learn more about implementing a newly minted PLA policy to support veterans.
Sixteen college campuses in Montana have held meetings to further outreach to local community veterans’ organizations. The Montana University System also is holding a series of financial literacy events, strengthening relationships between the campus-based veterans’ offices, the financial education offices, and current and potential students who are veterans.
Additionally, the state PLA Council in Montana is working to identify ways to connect veterans’ training with the state’s in-demand apprenticeship occupations.
USA Funds also is working with the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit (MCMC), an initiative of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. This program is bringing 13 states together to translate into college credentials the competencies that veterans have acquired through military training and experience. By supporting this effort, USA Funds aims to:
- Increase postsecondary degree completion.
- Streamline pathways for licensure and certification for health care professions.
- Support services during key educational transitions.
- Create networks for supporting communications, technologies, and data collection and analyses.
I recently attended the 2016 MCMC annual meeting in Chicago, where representatives from all 13 participating states gathered for two days to share their experiences and meet with representatives from the armed forces.
Among the presenters were Col. Steve Delvaux, vice provost for academic affairs at Army University, and Frank DiGiovanni, director of force training, U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. Event panels featured veterans who are current students.
I was impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of all 13 states to create scalable models for the consistent, transparent and effective awarding of credit for military training and experience. Representatives from every state expressed the desire to establish strong partnerships with postsecondary institutions and organizations, to reduce the cost and time required for completion and gaining employment in the civilian sector.
These partnerships, launched through $500,000 in USA Funds grants in fall 2015, are yielding promising results for veterans. The work is providing states with a way to:
- Share best practices.
- Overcome the challenges associated with innovation.
- Spread the word to veteran populations about resources available.
During this weekend of remembrance, I am proud of the work USA Funds’ state partners are doing to recognize and reward the experiences of U.S. service members. I look forward to working with these states and others as they continue to innovate and advance opportunities for veterans.